FEATURE: Edy Hurst’s Five Favourite Musicians Whose Lyrics Are Funny | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Hello, I’m Edy Hurst and I’m a musical comedian (I know, I’m as disappointed as you are), and by that very name I have to do two things; music and comedy. If I don’t have any music it’ll just be a funny poem, and nobody wants that, and I can’t just do music, because that’s not funny. Or is it?
I love Flight of the Conchords, Tenacious D, Bill Bailey and countless other to bits, but a mild obsession of mine has been finding song-writers that alongside ballads, anthems and dirges have numbers that would work as well on a comedy stage as at their own concerts. Sometimes possibly more so.
I’m not talking about novelty one offs like when Bowie did the Laughing Gnome, no, these are musicians whose lyrics are funny, insightful and (if it’s possible) sincere too. I’ve chosen five as that is the rules of this feature, and I am a polite lad, but there’s obviously loads. If you’ve got some that I’ve missed off, why not come to my FREE comedy show on the Sunday 2nd December, 6pm at the Chillingham Arms as part of the Chilli Comedy Fest and tell me about it? Or better yet, why not just come along and enjoy yourself with no other motive? Why not tell all of your friends too and bring them too?
Anyway, enough of the cynical self-promotion, onto the sincere promotion of others!

Randy Newman
Randy Newman is probably best known for Toy Story anthem, and alternative theme tune to the film Inner Space, ‘You’ve got a friend in me’. Whilst many a Daddy Daughter wedding dance has been built on this earnest ode to the friendship of a cowboy and a space ranger, most of his other songs would absolutely not.
I could write the whole article on Newman, he has an acerbic, self-loathing cynicism in his writing that is so personal and idiosyncratic it can make the irony of Dylan Moran see a little weak. The song I’ve chosen is ‘My Life is Good’ as it perfectly sums up his style.
First it starts in an ironic persona satirising L.A. celebrity, before turning into the singer screaming at his son’s teacher. Top marks for getting to shout ‘listen here you old bat’ in a song and not make it seem out of place. Also, very notable mentions to his recent song Putin about rife comedy ground/terrifying harbinger of doom Vladimir Putin.

Laurie Anderson
Laurie Anderson might be cheating a bit as she is a performance artist, but I don’t care. I flipping love Laurie Anderson, she’s amazing and we don’t deserve her at all. When the horrible day comes that she passes away, I’m certain the eulogies will all mention her marriage to Lou Reed near the start, but that is nowhere near the list of notes worthy to mention of her.
She experiments with story-telling, electronic music and sampling, producing these incredible songs that are part metaphor, part real life, part song, part play. She has mastered the art that many an Edinburgh bound comedian wishes they had which is making something funny and tragic at the same time.
For a great idea of what she does, Heart of a Dog is incredible. All of her work is amazing. She’s just the best a’right? I’m going to choose So Happy Birthday though as it’s one of her funniest. It knocks spots off some of the finest surrealists working today, like Maria Bamford she manages to make light and humour out of tragedy without diminishing it.

John Grant
Former singer of the Czars (I don’t know them really either), John Grant’s humour is pitch black, nihilistic and agonisingly human. His lyric style is a bit like Morrissey, but without any of the racism, and a love and embrace of the fabulous elements of gay culture. With his low pur, he can go from heart wrenching pieces about the breakdown of a relationship, straight to a catty song about a gay club with a camp german accented narrator.
This is all done with a total and complete love and respect of the song, nothing is done just for a laugh, but neither is the opportunity for a quick joke passed over. Whenever I’m at a low point, John Grant is always there to share in my misery.
I’ve chosen Sigourney Weaver as I could absolutely imagine it being performed at a comedy club.

As a Manchester man, I had to put some band from around there in, and I’ve chosen 10cc. 10cc, you may know as the guys who did I’m Not In Love or the questionable reggae satire Dreadlock Holiday (the one where they don’t like cricket). Whilst some of their songs haven’t necessarily stood the PC test of time, the latter especially, they do so more than many comedy musicians of the similar time.
Their songs take aim at the failings they see in the culture they live in. As they were 4 session musicians who formed a band together, you can tell that sometimes when it comes to writing lyrics it was just a bit of a laugh for them. Sometime parody, always tongue-in-cheek, there’s a real playfulness to everything they do. Also, James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem really rates them, so there’s that too.
There’s loads of great songs to choose from, but I’m going to go for Silly Love, purely for the line ‘You’ve got a smile like a Rembrandt’, which is just about the most deliberately pretentious way of saying someone’s ugly.

Harry Nilsson
Harry Nilsson and Newman shared the wacky spirit of a time when you could be a songwriter without having to be a pop star. So much so that Nilsson made a whole album performing his favourite songs by Newman. As well as this, some of his stuff was absolutely bonkers. He’s best known for the belting ballad, Can’t Live and his friendship with John Lennon, but there’s so much more to him.
He did that coconut song from Reservoir Dogs, sensibly named ‘The Coconut Song’ and that that song is on the same album as Can’t Live and Jump Into The Fire’ (with the who performing backing musical) typifies his scattergun approach to song writing.
How To Write A Song is for my money, his most funny work, and out in 1976. Meta and self-referential before it was even a thing in the comedy world, he was so ahead of his time that it makes me wonder what he would have done if he didn’t tragically pass away so young.
Also, I’ve named my show Hurst Schmurst in homage to his album Nilsson Schmilsson, which is being performed at the Chillingham arms on Sunday 2nd December for free at 6pm. I am so sorry, but not enough not to mention it.

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